The 21st century finds us within a dramatic transformation in information, entertainment, and technology – and, simultaneously, an era of social justice activism augmented by digital advocacy. Thanks to a confluence of factors, comedy may be in the midst of its newest golden era of experimentation and influence, both in the U.S. and around the world. In the still-evolving digital era, the opportunity to consume and share comedy has never been as available. And yet, despite its vast cultural imprint, comedy is a little-understood vehicle for serious public engagement in urgent social problems. Moreover, in the midst of a merger of entertainment and news in the contemporary information ecology, a revolutionary transformation in entertainment media business practices and technology, alongside a decline in perceptions of trust in government and traditional media institutions,1 comedy may be a unique force for change in pressing social justice challenges, such as global poverty, immigrant rights, gender equality, and climate change, to name only a few. Simultaneously, the post-9/11 sociocultural moment is characterized by renewed demands for social justice and equity, exemplified by social movements such as the Movement for Black Lives and #MeToo. Both the activism and cultural expression empowered by digital media converge to position comedy as a source of influence on today’s social justice issues.

With the growth of entertainment in the streaming era, mediated comedy is finding new outlets beyond traditional gatekeepers, and the present-day entertainment marketplace is embracing and reflecting new voices and cultural identities. As a result, the digital media landscape has witnessed a surge of comedy.

  • The entertainment marketplace for contemporary mediated comedy is embracing humor that includes social justice challenges.
  • As a far-reaching projector of cultural values and narratives, contemporary mediated comedy can serve as a site of cultural resistance.
  • Social justice topics – and diverse new comedy voices – are embraced by audiences in a cultural moment characterized by social justice struggle.
  • Mediated comedy in the digital era is shared virally, a public engagement mechanism and practice also central to contemporary networked social justice efforts.

Read the full article about comedy and social justice by Caty Borum Chattoo and Lauren Feldman  at Stanford Social Innovation Review.